Mobile Devices and Journalism


In this week’s tutorial, four members in our group talked about how journalists use mobile devices to enhance their reporting. I am very interested in this topic. Our tutor required us to take notes. Meanwhile,  I read some related texts after class.

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Advantages of Mobile Devices for Journalists

A survey conducted by the Carter Journalism Institute in 2013 reveals that 84 percent of journalists have a smart phone (Esther&Glenn). The majority of them reach social media networking sites by means of mobile devices. This survey also indicates an interesting fact that if journalists left their mobile phones at home, more than 65 percent of them would go home to get it.

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(the image shows journalists using their smart phone to photograph the cast members of a film)

Mobile devices like iPhones have incorporated many functions that make them appealing to journalists. Mobile devices are portable and compact, making it possible for journalists to take them everywhere. A smart phone or a tablet weighs less than two pounds and is much smaller than a desktop computer (Pinola). When breaking news occurs, journalists could use devices to effectively report news or conduct phone interviews in remote areas.

The following video shows how to use an iPhone to record phone interviews.

In my opinion, it is very convenient for journalists to shoot a short video or take pictures with their mobile phone. Citizen journalists can post first hand reports and then connect to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Youtube. Mwamba notes that it is difficult for investigative journalists to use professional cameras to get a close look at some unpleasant situations, such as serious crimes and political corruption. Using a smart phone equipped with a hidden camera, investigative journalists are able to capture photos or videos discreetly.

Furthermore, I think that journalists should have Twitter, Google, Qik, Instapaper and Dropbox on their mobile phone. Having Dropbox on mobile phone, the journalists do not need to take a pen and a paper for interviews. They could just save the files or photo videos to the computer and access them from their iPhone (Marshall).

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Disadvantages of Mobile Devices for Journalists

As for the disadvantages of mobile devices, Jenkins claims that as mobile phones continue getting smaller, they are easier to lose. Therefore, it is essential for journalists to consider a series of questions when they lost their smart phone. For instance, “is there sensitive information or protected sources in the phone? Are there unpublished multimedia images in the phone?” As mobile devices are an attractive target for criminals and hackers for finding sources, journalists should keep in mind that there are some security risks when using mobiles.

The SMS (short message service) is used frequently by mobile journalists to communicate with editors (Ulbricht). However, text messaging from mobile devices also has dangerous factors. If the mobile phone is lost or even stolen, the sent and received messages which stored in the phone are vulnerable (Quinn). Thus, I maintain that journalists should use an encrypted messaging app, which could better protect the SMS communication.

There are two suggestions for journalists to take precaution when using their mobile devices (Nathan). Firstly, set a personal identification pattern or number for starting the phone. Secondly, investigative journalists sometimes go to regions which have military, criminal or insurgent groups. They had better prepare two mobile devices. One is for the personal life and the other is for the professional use.

Nathan also notes that in case their phone is stolen or lost, 41 percent of mobile journalists would back up the photos, contacts and other materials on their phone. 32 percent of them wipe out their searching history or browsing history. In order to not allow other individuals or companies to access the information on their phone, 14 percent of them turned off location-tracking on the mobile phone.

To sum up, mobile devices are changing the way journalists report and share news. As analysed above, they are very handy and multi-functional. Nevertheless, they still have some risk factors, like information leaking. Journalists should have the awareness of how to protect the information in their smart phone, such as setting up a personal identification pattern and backing up some crucial contact methods.



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